Posted by: deirdrea | January 29, 2009

Alas! And in all that rain…..

Good afternoon, everybody!

I’ve been a little too busy to blog recently — I hope you haven’t missed me too much ;-D

Today, I have something entertaining, a mini rant — and maybe even a suggestion for President Obama.

First, here’s a picture: It’s called “Our New Friend,” and you can see the original shot on my Flickr account.

Our new straw penguin. Doesn't he look real?

Our new straw penguin. Doesn't he look real?

I didn’t particularly like the look of him against our old cinderblock walls, so I did a quick, smudgy background for him on Splashup — which is quite a fun site to play with, BTW. I hope you enjoy him as much as I do!

Well! Now to get to the meat of this post (and no, it’s not penguin meat!)

In case you are wondering about my title, let me clue you in.  I have finally got hold of Stephenie Meyer’s famous book, Twilight, and I am reading it. And enjoying it very much, I might add — despite certain lapses of logic, and even (gasp!) infelicities of style. Which leads me to this plea:

Dear President Obama:

Our nation is in desperate need of book editors! In the interests of American letters, let us give employment to the many talented people who could perform this terribly neglected task. We need to help the economy, and the environment — so let’s help the literary environment while we’re at it!

Not that I have anything against Ms. Meyer’s editor, mind you. I just think she could have used some help on a long book like this. And, (imo),  she should have been a bit more stringent.

Why? Consider this: Ms. Meyer’s heroine, Bella, although seventeen years old, “skips” to the bathroom in the morning. If she had done this  just once, it might not have been too jarring — after all, a certain amount of exuberance is to be expected when you’re seventeen. And there are “morning people” in the world!  So, a certain amount of skipping is OK. But, if repeated too often, it begins to sound improbable — or even formulaic. And that’s the main problem with how Ms. Meyer has written this story. Alice “dances” everywhere she goes, Edward’s hands are always “long, white” hands, Bella skips and bounces — and is quite improbably accident prone, for someone who habitually plays with knives.  And the list goes on…

Add a tendency to trust spell check to the mix, and you can get some pretty funny things. Consider the following passage, in which Bella is happy about the only sunny day she’s experienced in Forks, WA so far. (It always rains there, evidently).

I ate breakfast cheerily, watching the dust moats stirring in the sunlight that streamed in the back window.

Wow! Ms. Meyer has already made it clear that not much phases Bella — but such a chipper attitude in the face of falling fortifications — made of dust, no less (…in all that rain) — is really amazing!

On the positive side, Ms. Meyer plots brilliantly, and I’m finding her characters interesting. Twilight is quite a good book. But that’s what I’m finding frustrating about it — it’s just good, when it could have been really good, maybe even excellent.

And I do love excellent writing! Which brings me to the title of my post. All that rain in Twilight reminded me of a passage in another book — Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Here, Ms. Brodie is reading  aloud to her class from Tennyson’s poem, The Lady of Shalott.

Jenny was enthralled by the poem, her lips were parted, she was never bored. Sandy was never bored, but she had to lead a double life of her own in order not to be bored.

            Down she came and found a boat
           Beneath a willow left afloat,
           And round about the prow she wrote
           The Lady of Shalott.

     “By what means did your ladyship write these words?” Sandy enquired in her mind with her lips shut tight.

     “There was a pot of white paint and a brush which happened to be standing upon the grassy verge,” replied the Lady of Shalott graciously. “It was left there no doubt by some heedless member of the Unemployed.”

     “Alas, and in all that rain!” said Sandy for want of something better to say…..

Now that’s great writing, imo! If Dame Muriel ever needed editing, it never showed. She was a beautiful stylist! 

I would just love it if more of our very good YA authors could match that level of writing. Admittedly, many do. (Hilari Bell, anyone? Catherine Gilbert Murdock? Lloyd Alexander? Gary Schmidt? …. ) But I think they all should. We need to keep working against the perception I’ve encountered in other countries, that Americans can’t really write.

Well, that’s the end of my rant for today. I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know!

~D.

 

 

 

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